ITY 2020: Ticketing experts gear up for recovery
For the past five years, IQ has published the standalone International Ticketing Yearbook (ITY), highlighting the ticketing business in more than 40 key markets around the world, as the live events business continued to grow.
Rather than skipping the 2020 edition (given the lack of concerts, festivals and shows, last year), we are paring back the yearbook to provide an overview of the past few months during the pandemic, and examining what ticketing experts have been working on while the industry plans to get back to business in 2021…
2020 event ticket sales
Despite international touring grinding to a halt in March 2020, the ingenuity of artists, event organisers and promoters has provided a limited number of shows and festivals around the world, while pay-per-view live-streaming concerts have also proved popular with fans internationally.
Every company IQ spoke to for ITY 2020 states that the sales slump has been unprecedented – mostly down by more than 90% – as physical events have all but disappeared over the past nine months. Reporting its fiscal results for the first nine months of 2020, Europe’s largest ticketing firm, CTS Eventim revealed a 79% decline in turnover, to €228.7 million, in financial quarters one to three.
For its part, Ticketmaster parent company Live Nation reported that festivals where fans can retain their tickets for next year’s show had seen approximately 63% of fans are keeping their tickets.
The company’s sales and survey data suggests that fan demand will be there when the time is right. “Our refund rate on rescheduled shows remains consistently low, with 83% of fans globally keeping their tickets,” says Live Nation in its latest financial results. “Our recent global survey indicates that 95% of fans are planning to return to live music events when restrictions are lifted, the highest point of confidence since the start of the pandemic.”
The pandemic has taken its toll on markets large and small.
In Dubai, Vassiliy Anatoli, managing director of events guide and ticketing platform Platinumlist, tells a similar tale. “Sales stopped mid-March with lots of refunds to follow. We resumed sales with comedy events in July, which sold out, with most post-Covid events being supported by the UAE government.”
Comedy proved successful elsewhere, too. Emil Ionescu, general managing partner of Romania’s leading ticket company, iaBilet, says local event organisers’ association Aroc has worked diligently on a reopening plan, with promoters able to put on open-air shows to a maximum of 500 people from the start of June.
“The thirst for live entertainment is enormous, and this thirst is intensifying the longer bans are in force” — Alexander Ruoff, COO, CTS Eventim
“Drive-ins worked like a charm for a few weeks, then they halted. People lost interest. But stand-up comedy took their place,” he states. “Concerts didn’t work so well, although some club venues did outdoor, all-standing events with 100–150, even 200, people, which sold out. But that was the best we had. It seems Romanians can’t replace that live music feeling with something that holds them at a two-metre distance with masks on their face.”
Also hit hard by the termination of mass gatherings, event discovery and ticketing platform Dices wiftly tweaked its model to exploit the demand for live-streamed shows. “We’ve worked on more than 4,000 livestream shows, broadcast from 30 countries, and sold tickets in 146 countries,” reveals its chief revenue officer, Russ Tannen. “From Laura Marling’s breathtaking performance at Union Chapel [London] to Kylie’s glittering disco performance, live-stream events on Dice are attracting bigger and bigger audiences.”
That experience is echoed by Zack Sabban, CEO of Event Genius and Festicket. “It’s been really interesting to see that during the height of the pandemic in Europe, our top performing events have been our FesticketLive livestreaming gigs, which sold more than 50,000 tickets.”
Despite that positivity, the results are, of course, a shadow of what Festicket had expected in 2020. “At the beginning of the year, sales were strong, especially for the summer festival season – we were beating all previous records,” says Sabban. But he is confident that fans’ pent-up demand can help the market make a strong comeback. “After the summer, our recovery began and as some of our festival partners launched on-sales for 2021, sales returned and we actually began to record improvements on last autumn’s numbers,” he claims.
Kenton Ward, CEO of Live It (formerly known as Bookitbee), says, “When lockdown was announced we hit a wall in the first month, with sales down by 97%. Since then we have seen this recover over time as we have worked with promoters and organisers to adjust their offerings. Currently, we are seeing about 45% of previous revenues for the corresponding time.”
Similarly, Rob Casson, Skiddle’s head of new business for UK and Europe, reveals Covid hit ticket sales by 82% initially. But he notes “a positive outlook on 2021 sales, with a lot of promoters putting new events on.” He also says that Skiddle has worked on numerous alternative events, in line with changing government guidelines.
“With a lot of promoters moving tickets over to next year, we forecast a continued impact on sales for 2021,” he warns. “However, we are already beginning to notice promoters being agile around the types of events they’re hosting in 2021.”
“Once the pandemic is over, the entertainment sector will experience a real boom” — Moritz Schwenkow, CTO, DEAG
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Total Ticketing managing director Pete Gordon recognises the issues of his peers elsewhere, but he reports success with online events, where “music, literary talks and workshops [have sold] relatively well.” Gordon adds, “We see a strong future for these events and expect them to continue to thrive alongside the face-to-face events once these return.”
One remarkably strong market for livestreaming has been Russia, where the vast geography often leaves fans outside of the main cities starved of live events.
Vladimir Ageev, head of strategy for MTS Entertainment, underlines the nation’s enormous appetite for live-streaming. “The pandemic allowed us to launch a series of [VR-format] online concerts this summer that introduced viewers to our MTS Live brand. We delivered 21 online concerts, which reached a total audience of 60 million viewers.”
Determined to exploit that popularity, he adds, “Online concerts allowed us to continue promotion of other MTS products: the number of traced audience for further monetisation totals approximately 63 million new clients, so we are planning further development of this line of business in the near future.”
Refunds and voucher schemes
The world’s ticketing operations were faced with their own unprecedented problems when Covid took hold earlier this year, as the prospect of having to refund billions of euros, dollars, etc, quickly became all too real, and exposed the entire live entertainment industry to some worrying home truths over cashflow, in particular.
Thankfully, millions of fans around the world proved their loyalty by opting to keep tickets for postponed events, rather than demand refunds, while in a number of territories, voucher schemes were approved by governments and local authorities, to provide the industry with some breathing space.
“In terms of our arena events, particularly music events, we have had a much higher number of people holding on to tickets than we expected,” observes Richard Howle at the Ticket Factory in the UK. “If fans want to see an act, they are prepared to book tickets up to a year in advance. The pandemic hasn’t changed their desire to see their favourite artists, so at the moment they seem willing to hold on a bit longer.”
However, Howle warns, “As dates get rescheduled for a second or third time, or as people get more concerned about their finances, this may change and we may very well see more people requesting a refund.”
Total Ticketing’s Gordon also reports that the majority of fans in Hong Kong have held on to the tickets for postponed events. “We have had some events that have been subject to multiple rescheduled dates, and fans have, on the whole, kept their tickets despite the moving target,” he says.
“I think some actors in the segment have been amazing to their staff, suppliers and customers” — Rob Wilmshurst, CEO, See Tickets
Tannen says that 90% of tickets for live shows that have been rescheduled have not been returned to Dice. “Our flexible returns and waiting-list functionality mean that, on Dice, fans can often get a refund any time before the gig, so many fans will hold on to their ticket in the hope that they’ll be able to make the date of the new show. If they can’t, they’ll offer it to the waiting list.”
The extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic put every government and economy in the world on alert, but in a number of territories, arts and culture industry associations have persuaded officials to allow voucher schemes.
Romania is one such country, thanks mainly to the patience of music fans. Ionescu reveals that live music trade body Aroc worked closely with government on a two-pronged solution for fans: either keeping a ticket that is valid for the rescheduled event, or requesting a voucher that can be used until September 2021 on future shows by that promoter.
“If people don’t use the voucher before September 2021, they can request a full cash refund,” Ionescu explains. “If the show gets cancelled, the fans receive a voucher, also valid until September 2021, for shows by the same promoter. So, most of the fans kept their tickets – less than 5% requested a voucher. What’s surprising and pretty awesome is that some people even bought tickets for the rescheduled events during the pandemic, just to help a little.”
Returns and refund requests vary depending on territory, culture, and even genre. Sophie Belova, former head of Europe and CIS for MyMusicTaste, has been specialising in taking K-pop acts around the world, and while she reveals, “K-pop fans are trying to keep their tickets for as long as needed,” she adds that 10–15% of tickets needed to be refunded.
The returns dilemma was less complicated for some. Platinumlist’s Anatoli says almost all shows were refunded, while in Hong Kong, Gordon says, “We’ve seen a higher rate of refunds where international travel would have been involved, presumably reflecting customers’ scepticism.” He notes, however, that customers have generally been happy to keep their tickets for domestic events.
That delicate act of persuading people to be patient has been an international effort. “We saw less than 10% of refunds across all our events. This was as a result of a PR plea to eventgoers,” comments Shai Evian, CEO of South African ticketer Howler.
“All signs point to a very busy summer season and a very busy 2021” — Maria O’Connor, chairman, Ticketmaster Australasia
Live It operates a slightly different model to many ticketing companies in that it is not the merchant of record for sales. “This means that the promoters and organisers get all of their funds in advance of their events, and we have worked closely with them to help manage cancellations, reschedules and refunds,” explains Ware. “As such, Live It do not have tickets outstanding but many of our clients have rescheduled, and ticket holders have agreed to move their attendance to a future event.”
In Russia, Ageev details how MTS tweaked its systems to help ticket buyers stay safe. “We introduced online mass ticket refund services for cancelled events, which was also made available to those who bought tickets at offline ticket offices. This made it possible to refund hundreds of thousands of tickets quickly and smoothly, without forcing people to leave their homes or lose money spent.”
Such attention to detail is admirable, but Festicket’s Sabban notes that different partners have different refund and exchange policies. “For events where keeping hold of tickets for rescheduled dates was an option, the majority of customers are choosing to do so. Not only because they want to attend the event next year but also because they actively want to support the event and make sure it will survive, go ahead next year, and continue to flourish.”
Advance sales for 2021
While uncertainty has undoubtedly been one of the keywords of 2020, optimism and, perhaps, a longing to return to normality, have resulted in healthy ticket sales for 2021 – a situation that news of vaccines is only helping to bolster as the new year approaches.
“Twenty twenty was definitely a tough year for the entire live shows and ticketing industry. Nevertheless, any crisis not only leads to problems but also provides new opportunities,” offers optimistic Ageev. As a result, MTS is planning a raft of new services to reinvigorate sales. Ageev lists these as, “Gift cards for events of certain organisers, the launch of a last-minute sale service (providing an extra discount a day before the event), and the launch of ticket sales for streaming events.”
While diehard music fans are happy to secure their access to concerts and festivals in 2021, the Ticket Factory’s Howle observes, “Fair-weather fans are still reluctant to book. So, when we have a new on-sale, we are seeing the usual sharp spike, but the drop off is much sharper than we would expect in normal times.”
In Asia, Total Ticketing’s Gordon believes vaccine news is helping confidence return. “We have seen a definite surge in interest and enquiries, although the outlook for the early part of the year is still far from certain. Once events are on sale, uptake has generally been good, and there is definitely a strong appetite for getting out and having experiences again.”
“Tcketing has been at the front line of dealing with the downside of the pandemic, and will play a crucial role as recovery begins” — Jonathan Brown, CEO, Star
Tannen also reports heartening results. “Next year’s Primavera Sound sold out on Dice in record-breaking time – just over a week – while our exclusive Communion Presents series of socially distanced live shows […] sold out in a couple of days.”
Underlining that growing confidence, Casson tells IQ, “We expect consumer demand to be pent up from 2020 and even more events to be put on by promoters in 2021, especially in light of the news about a potential vaccine.”
But the story isn’t the same everywhere. “It’s certainly not the case here,” says Ionescu. “Sales are still down by 95% for future events, so events that sold 100 tickets per day now sell around one or two.”
However, local knowledge means Romanian promoters have been holding back on confirmed shows for next year, even where A-list acts are concerned. “No big shows have been put on sale for 2021, so we don’t have any numbers,” confirms Ionescu. “Small shows that have gone on sale sold just a few tickets, so people are still very careful about what they spend their money on.”
Future sales are not a viable prospect in South Africa, as yet, either. But Howler has used the lockdown period to concentrate on international expansion, with at least one solid result, so far. “We have signed an exclusive long-term ticketing deal with Spanish promoters Elrow,” says Evian. “This is one of the largest and most sought-after contracts in the industry and something that we are very excited and proud to have won, over all the global major ticketing companies.”
Also in growth mode, Festicket’s Sabban says, “We’ve experienced strong sales for those promoters who have been willing to go on sale over the past few months for 2021 events. Unsurprisingly, the appetite and demand amongst fans across the globe is huge at the moment – everyone is searching for something to look forward to.”
Live It’s Ward notes, “We are seeing stronger than expected sales for events planned for 2021, which we put down to pent-up demand and (currently) lowered competition for share of wallet in the sector.”
“2022 will likely be the best year the industry has ever seen” — Bryan Perez, CEO, AXS
He continues, “We are picking up a number of new clients who have found that their previous ticketing provider was no longer able to provide funds before the event – many of these are poised to go live as soon as they feel the time is right to launch.”
Hopes of the various vaccines may have injected a much-needed shot of optimism, but while those programmes will take months to roll out, international touring will remain unrealistic. But Dubai-based Anatoli believes that the demand for entertainment can still be met by a supply of local talent. “Our strength is the reach to the local audience,” he says. “Since traveling is currently restricted, we have seen a significant rise in sales for local attractions and we have become the leading OTA for most local attractions during this time, which is a welcome relief.”
And in Russia, there are signs that the market could come roaring back. “The easing of restrictions delivered sales figures above our expectations,” says Ageev. “The pace of market recovery in August–September exceeded our forecasts by 50%. Then there was a second wave [of the virus] and new restrictions followed. Overall, we expect the market to rebound next year as the restrictions again ease, with full recovery to pre-crisis volumes in 2022.”
As a result, Ageev and his colleagues are confidently making “big plans” for 2021 and beyond. “MTS aims to maintain a leading position in Moscow region and actively develop in other Russian regions. We are feeling optimistic about the future,” he says.
Across the live entertainment industry, Covid has proven a unifying force, with once-bitter rivals declaring a truce to work together to lobby governments. Whether such amnesties will continue post-pandemic remains to be seen, but in a number of territories, new associations have been set up that should ensure an element of co-operation going forward.
“The collective effort across the whole industry has been really heartwarming. And, although there’s always an element of rivalry between our companies, in ticketing we are a group of people that get on well as individuals,” says Howle.
“The virtual format helps grow the reach of quality content, bringing artists closer to their audiences” — Ashish Hemrajani, CEO, BookMyShow
“The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (Star) has played a really important role in uniting and representing the industry – the whole team there have been amazing. Star have facilitated regular online socials where ticketing companies can gather, crack open a beer and share war stories. These have been invaluable – there has been real comfort in knowing that you are not alone in the trials and tribulations of this pandemic.”
At Dice, Tannen says the pandemic has improved relationships with talent, as 80% of the livestreaming shows have been arranged directly with artists and their management. “We’re enabling artists to make the events happen,” he states.
Total Ticketing’s Gordon says promoters have rallied round to support each other during the pandemic. But he flags up one area where work is needed. “Venues, in general, remain a difficult area in Hong Kong with rental prices making the sustainability of small venues very challenging, whilst the larger venues are often exclusive with specific ticketing companies – a situation which sadly seems not to be changing.”
Sabban emphasises that the Covid crisis accelerated the need for greater co-operation, given the numerous festivals, concerts and shows that were hit by lockdown restrictions. “As ticketing companies, we all have a responsibility to the industry to offer fans a great level of service and make sure that a poor set of communications for a cancelled event or a delayed refund doesn’t put fans off buying tickets to their next event,” says Sabban.
That’s certainly the case at ground level, where K-pop specialist Belova reports agents have gone above and beyond, while, “Venues [have been] kind enough to propose mutually agreeable deals where penalties won’t be applied if acts wish to move dates again.”
One area of co-operation and collaboration that often goes under the radar has been the effort that companies have put in to help fight the coronavirus.
The Ticket Factory, for example, tasked its tech team with devising a way of selling socially distanced events and methods to collect and manage track-and-trace data. Similarly, Total Ticketing has been working on real-name ticketing and ID/contact data capture for track and trace. “[We’ve been collaborating on] how to use our seating algorithms to handle reduced capacity and seating layout restrictions, and how to handle electronic health declarations ahead of the event and on arrival,” says Gordon.
“Ticket protection is now genuinely a customer expectation” — Ben Bray, development director, TicketPlan
IaBilet used the time to create social distancing tools to help ticket buyers and promoters, while it also published regular newsletters for the 1,000+ promoters it works with to inform them of new laws, ordinances, and government measures, related to ongoing Covid restrictions. “But the most important thing I think we did was the Client Service,” states Ionescu. “Our team managed to keep the industry on track, and we kept the fans informed, the promoters informed, the authorities informed. We didn’t get much sleep for three months, but hard work is no stranger to us, especially during these times.”
Festicket’s focus on how to help organisers get back to business includes developments in track-and-trace ticketing; unmanned self-service scanning terminals that allow fans to scan themselves into events, thus “improving audience flow whilst reducing staff-to-fan contact points significantly”; and marketing cashless solutions that Sabban believes will be widely adopted in 2021.
“To make things even more Covid-secure, our egPay solution now offers mobile and self-service unmanned top-up stations in addition to a contactless system, allowing organisers who feel the move to a full RFID/NFC cashless system is not right for their event, to take offline contactless card and mobile payments. We’ve put a big emphasis on flexibility and ensuring we have solutions for all events and promoters,” adds Sabban.
Speaking on behalf of Live It, CEO Ward discloses that the company is launching an affiliate and promotion network. “We have developed an entirely new booking app and front end, and have support for socially distanced seating and dynamic planning for seated events in line with social distancing guidelines in different territories,” he says. “The Live It platform now has additional functionality allowing organisers to (optionally) require positive confirmation of vaccination or negative testing for attendees booking tickets and a process for managing the collection of proof of this.”
For its part, Platinumlist has developed an automatic seating-gap system, which Anatoly claims can maximise venue seating capacity while keeping groups of people safely separated. And 7,000 kilometres across the equator in South Africa, Evian says Howler created a Covid screening application that can pre-screen event goers for Covid-19 symptoms in line with government regulations. “This is helping event organisers successfully host events amidst the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Evian.
Emil Ionescu at iaBilet believes empathy has been key over the last few months. “We learned you need a lot of empathy, understanding and patience in everything you do, especially in ticketing,” he says. “Empathy for the fan who spent his savings on a ticket and doesn’t know if his favourite band will play or where his money is; empathy for the promoter who needs information, a little pat on the back or a hug during hard times, and most importantly to know that his money – and future – are safe.
“Big-scale ticketing is about trust. So when we start rebuilding, ’empathy’ will be our keyword in everything we do.”
“We see great uptake for each and every event that manages to go ahead” — Pete Gordon, MD, Total Ticketing
Communication has been another key component during the pandemic, with a number of companies highlighting the importance of human contact. “We are proud that we managed to keep our phone lines open throughout lockdown, and that has been invaluable in providing comfort and support for our ticket-buying customers,” says Howle.
“All ticketing companies went into this pandemic not knowing how to deal with it, so we knew that having experienced staff on hand would be crucial,” says Casson. “Skiddle’s phone lines stayed open throughout the lockdown and we responded and solved thousands of enquiries each week. There were, and still are, regular government updates regarding events, and it is our job to make sense of these, and provide guidance to customers and promoters as best we can.”
“The pandemic made us stop and really think about what we could offer to the industry,” recalls Festicket’s Zack Sabban, who cites the importance of agility, communication and resilience. And he notes there are definite avenues of opportunity, as a number of clients have spoken of desires to “streamline their ticketing, travel, access, marketing and onsite payment processes with one provider.”
Dices Tannen contends that the advent of pay-per-view concert broadcasting has been the biggest takeaway from 2020. “We’d never had a conversation about live-streaming until March,” says Tannen. “Now it’s a huge part of ours and our partners businesses. But the real lesson was the emotional engagement that a live-streaming concert can create, fans love live-streams, and they’re here to stay.”
Agreeing that live-streams will provide new revenue streams to the industry from now on, Sophie Belova cites the ability of the pandemic to level the playing field, fuelling one of the reasons behind her faith in K-pop. “You are never at the very top forever and even the biggest names are vulnerable as well,” she says. “Younger audiences will return first, so [promoters should] consider hip hop, rap and K-pop as the top ticket sellers for 2021–22.”
Also concentrating on the paying public, Total Ticketing MD Gordon comments, “It’s been a challenging year for everyone in the industry, and remaining positive and supporting each other is critical. Customers have had a disappointing year too, so making sure they are looked after and know that they can buy from us with confidence is a key focus.”
Green shoots of optimism
As 2020 clicks through its final days, unfortunately there is still no green light for mass gatherings to resume. However, with vaccines already being given to patients in a number of territories, there is at least a shaft of light rumoured to be in the vicinity of the end of a tunnel.
“Any crisis not only leads to problems, but provides new opportunities” — Vladimir Ageev, head of strategy, MTS Entertainment
Indeed, some glass-half-full proponents are predicting that festivals may return to the northern hemisphere when the summer months roll around, although under questioning, uncertainty looms large when the subject of international artists is raised. The ticketing community is similarly cautious.
“My personal view is that rapid mass testing is going to be key to the recovery of our sector,” states Howle. “Once that happens, then this industry will be back with a vengeance.
“The diaries are already packed for the second part of 2021 and for 2022, and I truly believe that after this year of lockdown and misery, the public are going to be craving the excitement and joy of live entertainment and will pack our arenas, theatres and stadia once more.”
Live It’s Ward observes, “The events sector is traditionally not as impacted by economic recession as many other sectors, and whilst the global economy as a whole will recover slowly, events will see a V-shaped recovery as vaccination programmes allow the roll-back of measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.
“Twenty twenty-one is not going to see everything back to normal, but the pent-up demand from people wishing to get back to a level of normal and the ingenuity of the sector is already providing opportunities for growth and expansion into new sectors. There will be casualties within the industry from organisations that are over extended or were performing poorly prior to the pandemic, but there will equally be businesses that thrive.”
In the southern hemisphere, Shia Evian at Howler tells IQ that 500-cap, events are already reopening in South Africa. “We expect regulations on the large-scale events to be in place for another 6–9 months, and hopefully we’ll be back to full force this time next year [December 2021],” he predicts.
Anatoli forecasts a long road to recovery in the Gulf states, but says Platinumlist believes that autumn next year will start to hit 2019 sales levels.“We are selling a lot of events in December with even bigger plans in January and February, and I believe that by Q3 2021 the local market will recover back to its usual volumes.”
Some glass-half-full proponents are predicting that festivals may return to the northern hemisphere when the summer months roll around
Sabban agrees. “From the event partners we work with who have launched 2021 onsales over the past couple of months, it is clear that the demand from fans is huge,” he says. “We have no doubt that our industry will rebound and it’s highly likely that lots of new events will spring up once a return to some form of normality has arrived.”
Ahead of ‘normality,’ however, Sabban reveals that Festicket is working with event organisers to evaluate methods to introduce Covid-19 testing kits pre-event as a possible additional entry requirement.
Internationally, positive vaccine trial results are undoubtedly buoying both fans and organisers, and from an Asian point of view, Pete Gordon says, “It’s clear that there’s huge demand from customers to continue to go out and have meaningful in-person experiences with their friends and other people. We see great uptake for each and every event that manages to go ahead, so as the world starts to recover and reopen, we believe that it will be a particularly fruitful period for the industry.”
And with a nod to the continued development of livestreaming, Gordon says, “If the parallel income streams being generated by remote events continue alongside that too, then we think the future is bright indeed.”
That’s music to the ears of Dice. “We’re now seeing how successfully live-streams and live events can work in tandem with hybrid events – where you have socially distant live events with the opportunity to live-stream to fans at home,” says Tannen. “We’re at the forefront of something genuinely innovative. We’ve only scratched the surface, but there’s so much the medium can offer artists, fans, venues and the industry.”
Ionescu concludes that the need for culture and human contact will ensure a healthy future for the ticketing sector. “The comeback will be atomic,” he proclaims. “I am an optimistic guy, I have faith in people and in this business, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it for more than half my life.
“Fans will realise after this big break how important culture, music and entertainment is for the soul and their mental development.”
The innovators: 2019’s ticketing pioneers
Technology and ticketing go hand-in-hand and, in recent years, an increasing number of companies have developed innovative solutions to make the ticketing sector more secure and sophisticated for event organisers, venue operators and fans alike.
As part of the International Ticketing Yearbook 2019 (ITY), IQ talks to ticketing companies Oxynade, Tixserve, Protect Group, Activity Stream, Queue-it, Ticketline, Ticketplan, Gigantic, the Ticket Factory, Ticketmaster, Tickets.ie and FanDragon Technologies to gain a deeper insight into the most significant technological advances affecting the industry today.
The white-label ticketing partner offers an all-round system that includes a fully equipped back office, box office and specialised features covering a broad range of verticals, meaning ticketing companies don’t need to take on the cost and resources of setting up their own platform. The company’s eTicketing as a service (eTaaS) solution launched in 2017 and already has a global clientele.
Recently the Belgium-based company has invested heavily in improving its offer from an UI and UX perspective, with clear flows for ticket-buyers. It has also updated its API integration to enable clients to use their own Payment Service Provider (PSP). This means people can not only pay using their preferred PSP, but ticketers can offer bundles such as merch, food coupons or travel services, which can drive up revenues. Furthermore, the upgraded API offers ticket-buyers the opportunity to complete purchases using other forms of payment, such as gift vouchers, pre-charged cards or even ‘event currency’.
In September 2018, the firm launched its inaugural eTaaS Summit in Germany, which drew almost 50 delegates from 14 countries for networking and insightful panels. The event will take place again in April 2020, with a new approach. “We want to go really in-depth,” says company spokesperson Hannah Coekaerts. “We’re inviting international clients and top-notch speakers.”
The Belgium-based company has invested heavily in improving its offer from an UI and UX perspective, with clear flows for ticket-buyers
The B2B, Software-as-a-Service, white-label, ticket fulfilment company enables its clients to deliver secure digital tickets to their customers’ mobile phones.
Tixserve launched in the UK in 2017, and managing director Patrick Kirby says that its focus on solving problems for clients and doing trials with potential clients is now delivering strong growth for the company.
In April 2019, the company announced a partnership with UK entertainment retailer HMV to help with its diversification into live events. Tixserve worked with HMV to deliver signing sessions with US band Twenty One Pilots at six stores. The events took place during the UK leg of the band’s Bandito tour and were fully digitally ticketed. Passes were sold by HMV as part of a bundle with the band’s fifth album, Trench.
In the run-up to the events, touts were advertising yet-to-be-activated Tixserve tickets online for up to £200 – a mark-up of more than 1000% on the album/ticket bundle. When fans alerted HMV of these cases, organisers were able to disable all ticket transfer functionality, unless authorised, on a case-by-case basis, by using Tixserve’s technology.
In July 2019, Tixserve announced a multiyear agreement with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) for the provision of secure digital ticket delivery services for Twickenham Stadium, the home of England Rugby. The competitive tendering process involved extensive trials with full system testing at numerous events to validate the Tixserve digital ticket fulfilment solution, which included the ability to operate with the existing infrastructure at Twickenham Stadium provided by Ticketmaster and Fortress.
“Tixserve will be announcing a number of other high-profile client deals in the second half of 2019, in the music, theatre, and sports segments of the live events market”
Speaking after the deal, Kirby said: “Tixserve will be announcing a number of other high-profile client deals in the second half of 2019, in the music, theatre, and sports segments of the live events market. We are excited by the scale of opportunity of working with the RFU and the momentum of this success has already opened up business development opportunities for Tixserve not just in the UK and Ireland but in Europe, the USA and Asia.”
Market interest in digital ticketing has significantly increased over the last 12 months, to the extent that Tixserve is now handling a large volume of inbound enquiries from potential clients. Kirby says: “We are not in the business of selling ‘technology’ to clients but instead we focus on understanding the needs of potential clients and solving their business problems with a software platform that uses proven, high-performance and cost-effective enabling technologies.”
He also cautions against the hype associated with many start-up, technology- led companies setting out to ‘disrupt’ an industry such as the live event ticketing sector. “Tixserve’s mission is to add value to the live events industry by enabling its clients to gain business benefits from the adoption of digital ticketing including convenience for customers, security, authorised ticket exchange, lower costs, ‘know your customer’ data capture, and new digital commerce revenue streams that have the potential to transform the ticket into a profit centre.”
Protect Group provides innovative event cancellation protection and refund protection to all sizes and types of ticketing companies, platforms, events, venues, sports teams and more.
“We developed our solutions to not only provide the broadest and most comprehensive protection to our members and their ticket buyers, but also to generate new revenue streams to tackle rising costs and reduced margins for events,” says Ben Lenighan, head of commercial partnerships at Protect Group.
Protect Group first experienced success with Event Protect, their event cancellation protection, which was primarily for ticketing companies but also allowed organisers to reduce their financial risk and be assured their events were protected. This was due to increasing cancellation risks globally, as well as demand for a quicker and a more cost-effective insurance solution of this type.
Soon after, Refund Protect was created after the company saw the chance to create a more consumer-centric refund protection product for ticketing companies.
Ticketing companies integrate Event Protect and Refund Protect via a simple API, which allows sales transactions to be underwritten by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, Tokio Marine HCC and Swiss Re – three of the largest insurance providers.
“We developed our solutions to not only provide the broadest and most comprehensive protection to our members and their ticket buyers, but also to generate new revenue streams to tackle rising costs and reduced margins for events”
Protect Group says this means events and attendees have the best protection in place without admin work required from the organiser and/or ticketing company and with no upfront costs.
Since inception Protect Group says it has underwritten millions of transactions, handling the entire refund process for ticketing companies and events.
Lenighan continues, “The key is to refund attendees quickly and transparently, either if the event cancels or if the attendee themselves cannot attend the event due to unforeseen circumstances. We do this within seven days, with an average refund time globally of four days, to ensure that attendees are kept satisfied and negative social media impact is reduced.”
Based in Leeds, UK, Protect Group has members in over 25 different countries. It is opening international business hubs in North America, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Oceania as part of a global expansion resulting from an increase in demand.
The aim of Activity Stream is to make data accessible and valuable to the layman, so people can understand important information relating to ticket sales without needing a data science qualification.
When it comes to analysing data, most organisations are left with two choices: working manually with reporting tools and making lists and reports in Excel, or (for the major organisations only) investing in building your own data warehouse combining data from multiple sources. But that’s a multiyear project, costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and takes up key resources.
“We launched the company based on a middle way, a model of SaaS,” says Martin Gammeltoft. “We used AI, cluster analysis and weak-pattern recognition that you wouldn’t get by working in Excel, and built an AI model to predict ticket sales.
“Our AI is trained on multiple data sets rather than solely based on the one organisation’s it’s plugged into, so it’s able to help people straight away.
“It looks at things like whether some categories are moving faster than others, are you attracting lots of first-time buyers to specific events; it combines the ticket sales information and the digital side of things so you can look at the effect of campaigns. You can see ticket sales in real time but also see where they are coming from – whether it’s a Facebook campaign or mail-out or from one of your partners.”
“AI is like someone who has 40 years’ experience in the industry at 16 different venues – they can’t specifically email one person, but they apply their knowledge to their latest job”
The resulting easy-to-understand platform gives powerful insights that help improve marketing, planning, saves time and improves revenues, says Gammeltoft.
“The nature of AI is that you can train the model on data sets, and then transfer the learning to other organisations. So you never see a competitor’s data or use it, but the AI has learned from many sets. It’s like someone who has 40 years’ experience in the industry at 16 different venues – they can’t specifically email one person, but they apply their knowledge to their latest job. The AI learns from patterns but it’s not bringing specific consumers’ information or sales or events.
“It can tell you things like 92% of your Facebook sales are a particular demographic, so maybe you need to adjust that, or that a particular high-value customer hasn’t bought a ticket in 16 months but has suddenly come back.”
Gammeltoft, who has a background in economics, believes these AI-assisted insights will have a profound effect on the industry because they can identify things a human might not notice.
Clients include AXS, The Shubert Organization and London’s Barbican Centre.
Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of ITY 2019, or subscribe to the magazine here
Concerts axed as unrest builds in Chilean capital
Following the outbreak of anti-government protests, the Chilean government has ordered the cancellation of all “large-scale events”, declaring a state of emergency and imposing a curfew in Santiago and other parts of the country.
The protests began in the capital city of Santiago on Friday (18 October), following a public transport fare hike. Demonstrations later evolved into more general protests over living costs and inequality, spreading to other areas of Chile.
Two performances from celebrity violinist André Rieu at the 17,000-capacity Movistar Arena in Santiago were put on hold following the measures.
“We are deeply sorry for the cancellations and the inconvenience this will cause to those who had bought tickets,” stated local promoter Bizarro Live Entertainment, “but we find ourselves in a situation that is out of our hands.”
Canadian singer Bryan Adams was also due to play at the arena, following shows in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The singer cited “civil unrest” as the reason for the cancellation of today’s (22 October) show.
The one-day Vívela Festival, which was set to take place in Santiago’s Quinta Normal park, was also called off. Colombian band Bomba Estereo, UK electronic group Morcheeba, Jamaican reggae band Inner Circle and Venezuelan duo Mau y Ricky were among acts scheduled to play the festival.
“We are deeply sorry for the cancellations, but we find ourselves in a situation that is out of our hands”
“We are suspending the festival as we received an official statement from the government informing organisers that all large-scale events in the metropolitan area must be cancelled, due to the difficult situation that is going on,” announced festival promoter Street Machine.
Tickets for a show by Argentinian rock band Soda Stereo, due to go on sale today for Banco de Chile customers and on Thursday for the general public, will not be available until further notice, announced Chilean promoter Lotus Producciones.
According to IQ’s International Ticketing Yearbook 2019 (ITY), Chile’s live market has “thrived” in recent years, while South America’s other major touring destinations – Brazil and Argentina – have “faltered”.
“We have our own challenges, but we see the Chilean market as much more stable than the other markets in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Paulo Atienza, CEO of Chile’s leading ticketing company PuntoTicket, told ITY.
Major festivals in the country include Lotus Producciones-promoted Santiago Gets Louder and Lollapalooza Chile. Rock in Rio founder Roberto Medina recently announced that a Chilean edition of the Brazilian mega festival would take place in 2021.
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International Ticketing Yearbook 2019 out now
The International Ticketing Yearbook 2019 (ITY), the latest comprehensive review of the state of the global ticketing industry, is now available to read in print and online.
The print issue of ITY 2019 will be distributed along with the recently published IQ 85, providing in-depth profiles of 44 key global markets and features exploring the best in ticketing technology, innovative paperless ticket solutions and the impact of consolidation across the ticketing sector.
Following on from the success of last year, ITY 2019 contains figures for the estimated value of live music ticket sales in each market and a projection of sales for four years’ time. The statistics, taken from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) year-end estimates, signal the 20 markets that are expected to gross the most from ticket sales in 2019, with the United States, Germany and Japan leading the pack.
“Dynamism and innovation” continue to characterise the sector, according to editor James Drury, with “modernising forces” overhauling the ticket buying process in Brazil, Scandinavia, Hong Kong, Mexico, Poland and Singapore, among others.
Advances in facial recognition and augmented reality technology, the growth of “subscription-based models” and the “explosion in mobile ticketing” are among the most exciting of recent developments, according to Drury.
“New tech is not only helping combat fraud, but also means there can be a better understanding for who is attending events”
“New tech being used by ticketing firms is not only helping combat fraud, but also means there can be a better understanding for who is attending events,” says Drury. “This offers exciting opportunities to understand audiences better and provide better services and experiences as a result.”
Consolidation of the ticketing sector is also put under the microscope in the new edition of ITY.
“The last 12 months have seen some significant acquisitions, not least CTS Eventim’s move into France, and Live Nation Entertainment’s buy-out of Mexico’s Ocesa Entertainment,” writes Drury, stating that the “two big-money developments” could have “wide-reaching impact”.
The fight against secondary ticketing also rumbles on, as promoters and ticketing executives in Norway, Spain, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Japan and Italy voice their discontent with the continuation of for-profit resale.
The print edition of the International Ticketing Yearbook is free to subscribers of IQ Magazine (subscribe here), and will be distributed at events including Reeperbahn Festival in Germany, Eurosonic Noorderslag in the Netherlands, Moscow Ticketing Forum in Russia, Ticket Summit and Intix in the US, LatAm in Chile and the Ticketing Professionals Conference in the UK over the next 12 months.
Read the digital copy of ITY 2019 below:
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Investigations into “dirty” Italian resale market
Two consumer organisations have lodged official complaints with Italian authorities after tickets for Coldplay’s two dates in Milan next July sold out within minutes of going on sale.
Codacons, which says – despite the TicketOne website crashing “at the opening of pre-sales” – many resellers “managed to grab thousands of tickets”, which were listed instantly on secondary ticketing sites, has complained to the Milanese public prosecutor about what it describes as the “dirty and illicit” ticket resale market.
The organisation noted on Friday that on Viagogo the “lowest currently available price is €166.82” – it’s now up to €229 – which rises to the “absurd figure of €1,780.94” for the most expensive tickets, more than 16 times face value (although it’s important to note that just because tickets have been listed for 16 times their original price doesn’t mean they’ll sell for it – cf. Desert Trip).
Secondary sellers have also provoked the ire of Altroconsumo, which has asked the Italian Antitrust Authority, the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM), to investigate TicketOne (according to the International Ticketing Yearbook, one of the two main primary ticketing companies in Italy) for alleged unfair business practices.
“We ask the Antitrust Authority to put in place measures to avoid thousands of tickets sold at extortionate prices on the secondary market”
In a statement, the consumer rights group says: “In tests, Altroconsumo verified that within a few minutes of [going on sale], the tickets were available at exorbitant prices on the secondary market, with prices tripled at best.
“The organisation asks the Antitrust Authority to evaluate the behaviour of TicketOne and to put in place tools and measures necessary to avoid thousands of tickets being purchased and then resold at extortionate prices on secondary platforms.”
In May Belgium became the first country to force ISPs to block access to ticket resale sites in response to widespread touting and fraud.
Coldplay will play the San Siro stadium (80,000-cap.) on 3 and 4 July 2017.
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Tim Chambers joins hackathon-winning TickX
Industry veteran Tim Chambers has been named a non-executive director of UK ticket search engine TickX.
Chambers (pictured) – formerly a senior executive at Live Nation/Ticketmaster, where he founded TicketWeb, and now an independent ticketing consultant and executive editor of the International Ticketing Yearbook – comments: “It’s a great honour to join TickX as it experiences tremendous growth and development here in the UK and as we consider opportunities further afield for TickX’s event search engine technology.”
“We’re very proud to have Tim on board and we know that his wide acknowledge experience and expertise will be of huge value to our fast-growing business”
Steve Pearce, TickX’s CEO, adds: “As a young team we’ve put a huge amount of focus on surrounding ourselves with best investors, advisors and mentors, and they don’t get much more knowledgeable than Tim. We’re very proud to have him on board and we know that his wide acknowledge experience and expertise will be of huge value to our fast-growing business.”
TickX, founded by Pearce and Sam Coley with backing from Ministry of Sound, took home first prize at Ticketmaster’s recent API Devjam ‘hackathon’ for an “event inspiration” app for smart TVs, developed in four and a half hours.
Seatwave now in 14 markets with Nordic expansion
Ticketmaster-owned secondary ticketing platform Seatwave has entered the Nordic countries with the launch of local sites for Sweden and Finland.
The latest expansion means Seatwave is established in 14 countries globally. Ticketmaster as a whole now has a secondary-market presence in 16 markets, including Ticketmaster Resale in Australia, Get Me In! in the UK and TM+ and TicketsNow in North America in addition to Seatwave.
Mark Yovich (pictured), president of Ticketmaster International, comments: “As the demand for resale tickets grows globally, the launch of Seatwave in Finland and Sweden enables us to provide more fans with the safest and most secure resale platform available.”
“As the demand for resale tickets grows globally, the launch of Seatwave in Finland and Sweden enables us to provide more fans with the safest and most secure resale platform available”
While above-face-value ticket sale is legal in both markets, don’t expect to see Seatwave in other Scandinavian countries any time soon: According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2016, touting for profit is prohibited in both Denmark and Norway.
Ticketmaster/Live Nation is currently doing good business from its secondary ticketing platforms. In the second quarter of 2016 (Q2), ticket resale delivered growth of over 20% for the ninth consecutive quarter to over $300 million – up 49% on this time last year – following on from Q1, when it grew 43%, contributing to Ticketmaster’s biggest-ever month in February.
Ticket resale? NO, says Japanese music business
Japanese music industry associations, festivals and more than 100 of the country’s most popular performers have announced their support for #転売NO, a FanFair Alliance-style campaign aimed at ending ticket touting in Japan.
In a joint statement, the Japanese Federation of Music Producers (FMPJ), Japanese Association of Music Enterprises (JAME), All-Japan Concert and Live Entertainment Promoters’ Conference (ACPC) and Computer Ticketing Council say #転売NO (pronounced “tenbaiNO” and translated as “#ResaleNO”) say ordinary music fans are being robbed of the chance to see live music by the resale of concert tickets, and express their concerns over the “huge profits” being earned by many large-scale touts.
Its manifesto, taken out as an ad in Japanese newspapers, is signed by 116 artists, including one of Japan’s most popular male ‘idol’ boybands, Arashi – who IQ reported in April were deploying facial-recognition technology to prevent ticket touting on their current tour – and veteran rock group Southern All Stars (pictured), and 24 festivals and live events, including Fuji Rock, Metrock, Air Jam, Rising Sun Rock Festival and Sweet Love Shower.
The launch of #ResaleNO follows that last month of the similar FanFair initiative in the UK, which is backed by a number of British artists, managers, agents and concert promoters.
“If tickets become more expensive due to malicious resale, that profit is not being utilised for the creation of new content”
Hidenori Nakai, executive director of JAME, says: “Tickets should be available at their regular price. If they become expensive due to malicious resale, [the profit] is not at all utilised for the creation of new content.
“We are deeply concerned about such a situation, and want to continue our efforts towards the eradication [of touting].”
Ike Mitsunori, president of FMPJ, adds that the secondary ticket market as it stands risks hurting the “good relationship between artists and music fans”.
According to the 2015 International Ticketing Yearbook, the most established secondary ticketing outlets in Japan include TicketStreet, Ticket Ryutsu Center, TicketCamp and internet auction sites such as Rakuten Auction and Yahoo Auction.